Eight cases of COVID-19 have now been identified in Saskatchewan schools — the latest was found earlier this week at Valley Manor Elementary School in Martensville, Sask.
However, a professor in the department of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, says this was to be expected as children returned to their classrooms this fall.
“I’m certainly not surprised,” said Dr. Cory Neudorf. “We’ve known right from the start that this pandemic tends to affect adults and older people more in terms of symptoms. And since a lot of the testing has been focused on people with symptoms and those wanting to go back to work, we haven’t had as much uptake in testing from children.
“Now that we’re doing a little more testing in that age group, we expect to be finding a certain number of positives, both in terms of those who may have had mild symptoms and those with no symptoms at all.”
Janine Muyres’ three children attend City Park School in Saskatoon. For her, the transition to distance learning last winter was “kind of like having labour — when you’re in it, it’s hell, and when you’re out, you think ,’Well, that wasn’t so bad.'”
When Muyres found out her children could go back to their classrooms this fall, she was relieved to know that distance learning was off the table, at least for now.
“I remember telling my coworkers, ‘I don’t care if the kids have to wear a HAZMAT suit, they’re going back to school,’ she said.
“I’d been hanging on all summer with my fingers crossed, thinking ‘It’s got to go back, because I can’t do that to my kids again. I can’t put them through that.’
“I was just so busy with work. I couldn’t watch over them and make sure their assignments were getting done.”
With cold and flu season on the horizon, as well as fall allergies to contend with, Neudorf urged parents to take their children for flu shots as soon as possible and exercise caution when sending them to school with any health symptoms in the months ahead.
“I can imagine it’s going to get very frustrating to have mild symptoms leading to multiple tests being done and disruptions to work and family life,” he said. “This is the short-term reality we’re in this year.
“In the meantime, we do what we can with physical distancing, mask wearing, washing hands, using sanitizer and limiting your close circle of who you’re interacting with.”
For Neudorf, a case of COVID-19 in a school community can be a sign for administrators and public health officials to review their existing policies and question what could be done differently going forward.
“Whenever we see cases in a school, that’s a chance to re-look and ask if there is anything we could have done differently in terms of screening, keeping kids home when they’re sick … and contact tracing,” he said.
“Every time there’s a case or a cluster, it’s time to look at that in the context of that school and say, is there anything we could be doing differently here? We’re essentially learning as we go.”
Patrick Maze, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, is concerned about how quickly teachers are being asked to change on a dime as the school year progresses.
“From what I’m hearing, lots of teachers are kind of hanging by a thread and hoping that they can get through day to day at this point,” he said. “It is an unprecedentedly stressful time.
“I have lots of members who have been told — this late into the month already — that they’re changing their positions, switching subjects or going to online learning. And we’re asking that teachers be patient and roll with the punches, but at some point, we get to the fact that it’s very difficult to change what you teach this late into September.”
Maze has commended school faculty and staff for their thorough implementation of COVID safety protocols, but believes large class sizes and after-school activities may still fuel in-school transmission.
“Whether it’s practices or different events in the community, it’s a bit frustrating, because I know that schools have put in a tremendous amount of work to cohort students … and do block scheduling,” he said. “And that will all come undone if we continue to try to run things as normal in the evenings, as far as clubs and activities and events. So we’re hoping that the community can also do its part in order to help us keep the measures that have been put in place in schools to keep everyone safe.”
As for Muyres, she is working on sending her children out the door in the morning with a realistic perspective on this unique school year.
“I tell my kids, we’re not going to live in fear,” she said.
“We’re not going to let this consume our life, and nobody’s going to develop anxiety over this. This is here, it’s happening right now, here’s what you can do to prevent it. And we’re just going to go ahead until otherwise directed by health officials.”
Mandatory gathering restrictions return to Edmonton, Calgary as Alberta sets new single-day COVID-19 record | Watch News Videos Online – Globalnews.ca
There were 1,440 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Alberta over the weekend. That prompted Dr. Deena Hinshaw to re-introduce limits of 15 people or less at social gatherings, saying we have now “crossed a tipping point.” Julia Wong has the details from Monday’s health update.
St. Albert's COVID-19 active case count hits 124 – St. Albert TODAY
The number of St. Albertans currently diagnosed with COVID-19 grew to 124 cases over the weekend, marking the first time the city’s active case count has risen above 100.
This represents an increase of 33 people from Friday, Oct. 23. A total of 269 St. Albertans have been confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 to date. Of those, 143 people have recovered. Two people have died.
The province reported 1,440 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, including a record 572 cases reported on Saturday. With this increase, Alberta announced on Monday new mandatory limits on gatherings of up to 15 people in Edmonton and Calgary.
“I don’t ask that you fear COVID-19, but that you respect it. COVID is a novel disease that is not just the flu – it has the ability to overwhelm our health system and weaken essential services if we let it do so,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, during Monday’s update.
“Respecting COVID-19 means taking public health advice seriously, and not only taking care of ourselves, but also our communities by preventing transmission,”
There are currently 4,477 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. Of those, 2,179 active cases are recorded in the Edmonton zone. To date, 20,949 Albertans have recovered from COVID-19.
There are 118 people in hospital due to COVID-19, including 16 in intensive care. There were seven additional deaths reported since Oct. 23.
There are 276 active cases and 1,306 recovered cases at continuing care facilities. Of those, 186 residents have died.
Over the last two weeks in Edmonton and Calgary, social gatherings made up just 15 per cent of all outbreaks, but almost a third of all outbreak-related cases, Hinshaw said. Meanwhile, workplace outbreaks made up about 15 per cent of outbreaks and outbreak-related cases.
Just six per cent of all COVID-19 cases in those aged 5 to 19 since Sept. 1 have been acquired at school, Hinshaw said. This indicates schools are not a main driver of community transmission, but rising community transmission is resulting in more school exposures, she said.
Hinshaw said the province is in a “crucial” stage right now to reduce the rate of growth of COVID-19 cases.
“You have heard me say many times that we need to achieve a balance between minimizing the risk of COVID-19 and minimizing the risk of harms of restrictions,” she said.
“This requires us to keep the spread of COVID-19 manageable. We have now crossed a tipping point and are losing the balance we have been seeking. This weekend’s COVID-19 numbers tell the story clearly. We identified on average 480 cases of COVID-19 per day over the weekend.”
Alberta challenged by dueling narratives over COVID-19: Hinshaw
The chief medical officer of health said we can’t live in fear and terror of the virus for months but also can’t abandon efforts to protect the most vulnerable and ensure the health system can continue to meet all Albertans’ health needs.
She said it is a novel virus that can overwhelm the health system and weaken essential services.
“Respecting COVID-19 means taking public health advice seriously by taking care of ourselves and communities by taking steps to prevent transmission.”
She also asked for respectful dialogue with those who have different opinions, saying solutions will be found by working together.
Hinshaw reiterated a balance must be found between minimizing the risk of COVID-19 and the harms of restrictions needed to keep the spread manageable.
“We have now crossed a tipping point and are losing the balance we have been seeking,” she warned.
The total number of COVID-19 cases across the province stands at 25,733. There are 3,138 4,477 active cases, up 826 from Friday, and 20,949 recovered cases, up 639.
Red Deer added 14 cases over the weekend and is up to 174. The city has 39 active cases as of Monday.
(With file from Chris Brown – CHAT News Today)
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